"Have you finished your breakfast, children?" called Mother from the kitchen.
"Yes, Mother," answered Najma and Ajmal together. They hurriedly gulped down their tea and went to the kitchen.
"Get ready, both of you, while I do the washing up."
"Are we going to visit our uncle?" asked Najma.
"No, we go shopping today," said Mother.
"Shopping?" said Ajmal. "We've never gone shopping before, Mother."
"Yes, I know. That's because your father always does the shopping. But he's not at home. He's on tour, and it's the beginning of the month. We've run out of groceries and provisions. So we shall have to do the shopping ourselves. Let's hurry then, and get ready."
"It's going to be fun," said Ajmal in excitement.
"I am sure we'll all enjoy it," added Mother.
They stood on the roadside waiting for a taxi, all three of them carrying shopping bags. Mother hired a taxi. They sat in it.
"Market, please!" said the Mother to the driver. "And start the meter."
"The meter is out of order. Twenty five rupees for the market," said the driver.
"Good heavens! Twenty five rupees for the market!" exclaimed Mother. "It's hardly two kilometers from here. I'll pay you fifteen rupees or you drive us to the traffic sentry there."
"Alright Begam Sahib," said the driver, "let it be fifteen rupees then."
"Let's go to the mutton market first," said Mother as they got down the taxi.
"Look, Najma, how big those goats are!" said Ajmal pointing to the slaughtered animals hanging in a butcher's shop.
"They are not goats; Ajmal, they are cows and calves," corrected their Mother. "This is the beef market."
"What's the difference between beef and mutton?"
"Beef is the meat of cows while mutton is that of goats and sheep," said Mother stopping in front of a mutton shop.
"How much, for a kilo?" Mother asked the butcher.
"One hundred twenty rupees Madam."
One hundred twenty rupees? "No, it's one hundred ten rupees according to price list here," said Mother pointing at the list.
"Yes Madam, one hundred ten rupees for the ordinary meat. But if you want special...".
Mother interrupted him and said, "I’ll have the special meat at one hundred ten rupees a kilo."
"Yes Madam, as you wish. How much?" said the butcher.
" One kilo of leg and one kilo minced meat," answered Mother.
The butcher did his job and said, "Everything has been packed for you, Madam. Here you are! " Mother made the payment, put the meat in the bag and said, "Now let's buy some vegetables." So they went to the vegetable and fruit market.
"Please give me a kilo of tomatoes," said Mother.
“Yes, Ma'am. Anything else?" asked the shopkeeper.
"Yes, five kilos of onions, two kilos of potatoes, one kilo each of cabbage, cauliflower, turnips, green peas and two kilos of spinach and five kilos of carrots/'
"How much for the bananas?" asked Mother. "Twenty rupees for ten," said the fruit seller.
"And apples?" "Twenty four rupees a kilo."
"Give me ten bananas and one kilo of apples. Ajmal, put them in your basket and then we go to the grocer's."
"Please give me one kilo of salt, a quarter of red chillies, a quarter of black pepper and other spices; two cartons of soapflakes, three bars of washing soap, four cakes of toilet soap, a kilo bag of porridge, a jar of honey, one bottle each of tomato sauce and vinegar and two packets of biscuits."
The shopkeeper weighed and wrapped all the items in a large paper bag. Mother told the children that now-a-days instead of polythene bags the paper bags are being used all over the world. Polythene bags block the sewerage pipes. When the drains are choked the dirty water spills all over.
"One last thing before we go home," said Mother, stopping before a poultry shop.
"How much for the eggs?"
"Thirty rupees for a dozen. How many, Madam?"
"Here you are," said the shopkeeper.
"Do you have chicken?" inquired Mother.
"Live or dressed?"
"Dressed. How much for a kilo?"
"Is it fresh?"
"Yes, Madam. We keep it in the freezer."
"Give me one kilo, please."
"That will do for today," said Mother coming out of the market.
"Let's go home now"
"I enjoyed shopping," said Ajmal entering the house.
"Next Sunday we shall go again."
"No, not next Sunday, next month. It's 11 o'clock children. Let's get busy. Ajmal, you polish your own and Najma's shoes. Najma you iron the clothes while I go to the kitchen and start cooking."